The wagons are beginning to circle at the offices of the Sun after five more of the papers’ journalists were arrested by Metropolitan Police.
Veteran Sun hack Trevor Kavanagh — who has worked for the paper for 40 years — described the arrests as an “extraordinary assumption of power” by the police. Kavanagh’s a man who knows more than a thing or two about exercising unwarranted power.
Those arrested have been implicated in making payments to police officers and other public officials in exchange for information. Members of the police force and a ministry of defence official have also been arrested.
These latest arrests were made possible by a special unit set up by the paper’s parent company, News International, which handed over a large amount of evidence to the police. This has apparently created huge divisions down at their Wapping offices, with some members of the investigation unit openly bragging about the assistance given to Scotland Yard! Others are less amused by proceedings.
General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Michelle Stanistreet, is quoted in the Guardian as saying “Once again Rupert Murdoch is trying to pin the blame on individual journalists hoping that a few scalps will save his corporate reputation.”
The NUJ surely has a point. But the issues raised by these arrests are not confined to the employment rights of journalists. The Sun, Rupert Murdoch and the senior staff — including those who were arrested — at his papers represent something much “bigger” than rotten employers with rotten business practices.
Yes, Murdoch is very interested in making vast sums of money.
Yes, he’s obviously taking measures to protect his business interests in the UK and US — where News Corporation, the parent of parent companies, is under scrutiny. But the Murdoch newspaper empire is more than a simple business. The Sun in particular has been an active political agent, never shy of throwing its weight around, for very many years.
Along with filling its pages with the dreary details of “celebrity” life-styles, love affairs and the latest hairstyles, the Sun has a consistent line in politically reactionary commentary and the scapegoating of workers, ethnic and social minorities. It has never been shy of attacking those it sees as “scroungers”, “crooks” and the corrupt in public life, and so the current state of affairs has a pleasing irony.
No tears should be shed for those arrested, for Murdoch, or for the now compromised “sanctity” of the Sun’s freedom of expression. The fact is, socialists have no concern in protecting the sort of “freedoms” that allow Murdoch to bully governments and political parties; whip up hatred against Muslims, immigrants, gays and other minorities; attack workers, their trade unions and encourage scabbing. The “freedom” to bribe, bully and intimidate closes off the freedoms of others.
We should encourage the complete opening of the Sun’s, News International and News Corporation’s books. Let’s see all the dirty secrets and dirty deals that no doubt linger in the vaults.
This would be a true test of the “freedoms” some journalists are starting to preach about.